Prepared by distilling rose petals with steam or boiling water, this mild ingredient has a long history.
“Rose water has been around since ancient times in the Middle East and India, and also used in Europe for centuries,” dermatologist Dr. Lauren Ploch told HuffPost. “It has reached Western countries in the same way other products, ingredients and cuisines have ― globalisation. Rose water has been used as a perfume, flavouring and is now being used for its potential antioxidant properties.”
Passed down for generations as a secret to good hair and skin health, rose water is decidedly mainstream today with popular products like Mario Badescu’s Rosewater Facial Spray.
“It has become more widely adopted in American skin care brands as part of an overall shift in desire for beauty and skin care toward more natural and clean ingredients,” said Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, the co-founder of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut.
As I spray myself with my Mario Badescu bottle during the workday or try out a new product made with rose water, I certainly enjoy the product’s scent. But I often wonder ― is this actually doing anything for my skin beyond the fragrance? Below, skin care experts weigh in on the benefits of rose water and the best uses for this ingredient.
What are the benefits of rose water?
“Rose water is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can help to soothe irritation or redness,” said Dr. Melanie Palm, a dermatologist at Art of Skin MD.
Thanks to this calming and healing effect, people can use rose water on razor burns, wounds or other irritated areas on the face and body. It may also help with inflammatory skin issues like rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.
“Rose water helps to soothe the skin and helps to boost moisture and hydrate the skin,” dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick explained. “Additionally, because of its antibacterial properties, it may also be used even in those with acne-prone skin.”
Studies have also demonstrated rose water’s ability to inhibit the growth of the infection-causing yeast Candida albicans and antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria MRSA.
“Both of these microbes commonly cause human infections of the skin as well as inside the body, ranging from minor to fatal,” said dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose. “These researchers also found rose water to inhibit inflammation caused by the microbes.”
She noted that rose water is also believed to reduce the activity of collagenase and elastase ― proteins that break down collagen and elastin. Thus, the ingredient could promote higher levels of collagen and elastin, which help keep the skin looking healthy and youthful.
“Studies of rose water skin benefits have been quite limited, but it does contain compounds such as anthocyanins, polyphenols and flavonoids,” added dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. “These compounds have antioxidant properties and so may help to protect the skin from damage from free radicals.”
In addition to applying products with this ingredient to the skin, you can also drink rose water to help with skin inflammation, digestive problems or a sore throat.
“The calming fragrance of rose water can also help heighten the experience of a relaxing bath,” said dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camp.
The benefits of rose water are clearly numerous, and experts only pointed to one potential downside ― the rare possibility of the ingredient causing allergic contact dermatitis.
“Like with any new skin care product, it is always wise to test on a small patch of skin of the wrist, for example,” Murphy Rose said. “It is possible to have an allergy to rose water.”
Beyond that low-likelihood outcome, rose water is considered totally safe to use.
“That said, rose water isn’t a miracle skin care ingredient, and it certainly won’t cancel out bad skin care habits,” Palm emphasised. “If you like rose water, I advise using it as a way to enhance or supplement an already effective skin care routine.”
What’s the best way to implement rose water into your skin care routine?
With so many potential benefits, it makes sense that there would also be various ways to use rose water.
“You don’t need rose water in your skin care regimen,” noted Dr. Karan Lal of Affiliated Dermatology. “However, if you want to integrate your regimen with more natural ingredients, rose water is a great product to add. You can use it to cleanse your face at the end of the day or use it after cleansing before moisturising.”
These days, you can find rose water in toners, balms, salves, cleansers, serums, moisturizers, lotions and facial sprays.
Implementing this step before layering serums and moisturizers can give your face some extra hydration. Rose water toners help remove excess oil and prep your skin for more skin care products and makeup application.
“I love facial sprays for soothing inflammation, redness and balancing hydration levels,” said Dr. Rhonda Klein, the other co-founder of Modern Dermatology of Connecticut. “The sprays are also great for soothing areas on the body such as razor burn, chafing, sunburn and general irritation.”
The scent can create a sense of calm and relaxation as well.
“The hydrating properties of rose water can be harnessed when a thin layer is applied under a sheet mask,” Camp added.
Before buying a new product with rose water, Klein recommended reading over the formula’s ingredients to identify any known irritants like alcohol.
“Many products are overly diluted or have additives like fragrance, alcohol and dyes that can irritate the skin, negating any soothing benefits from the actual rose water,” Klein explained. “While not necessary, you can keep your rose water in the fridge to protect its shelf-life ― plus it feels extra soothing when you spray it on chilled!”
You can also make it yourself with fresh or dry petals, mineral water and steam.
“Just remember to clean rose petals with a fruit or vegetable wash to remove pesticides and insects,” Camp urged.
In general, the purer the rose water product, the better.
“Like all active ingredients, when it’s used in a concentrated form, it is more likely to benefit the skin,” Mraz Robinson said. “When you’re reading a product’s ingredient label, you should know that the first few ingredients listed are the ones in highest concentration ― this is more important to pay attention to than the product name, packaging claims and marketing materials.”
Don’t forget you can also add rose water to your hair routine.
“Because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, I also l like spritzing rose water in my roots in between hair wash days to keep my scalp feeling clean and itch-free,” Palm said. “You can also use rose water to set your makeup or to freshen your skin throughout the day.”
Although there are endless rose water product options on the market, the skin care experts highlighted a few of their favorites.
King is a fan of Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream Moisturizer, which contains rose water as well as other soothing ingredients like aloe and allantoin. Garshick recommended Thayers Rose Petal Facial Toner and rose water-scented deodorants like the Dove Ultimate Antiperspirant Deodorant Stick in Peony & Rose Water.
“For those who are looking for rose water to help set or refresh makeup, it may be best to use a spray like the Herbivore Rose Hibiscus Face Mist or the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Rose Water,” she said. “Those looking to help nourish and rejuvenate the skin overnight should consider an overnight mask like the Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Rosewater Mask.”
Garshick also recommended checking the formulation to ensure the product is suited to your desired effects. The rose water might be paired with hydrating or nourishing ingredients to help with dryness, whereas other products could be designed to help with oil production and balance the skin.
“As a mild astringent, it can help to reduce oiliness and control sebum production,” Garshick said. “Rosewater can also help to hydrate the skin, which is why the Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Rosewater Mask is a great option as it helps to hydrate and nourish the skin and uses rose stem cells which are gentle on the skin.”